Climate change is the biggest threat to the health of planet Earth and the species that call it home and as temperatures worldwide continue to increase due to carbon emissions, researchers are trying to find a way to reduce heating.
So the most obvious way to reduce the impact of climate change is to reduce carbon emissions but as a planet, we are not on course yet to do so. That leaves us with the question of how are we going to protect this planet?
Well, one idea is called solar geoengineering which is a scientific way to say we are going to cool the Earth by introducing molecules into the upper atmosphere to block sunlight.
The idea dates back to historical research on volcanoes that show when their are large eruptions and expels particles into the air, a cooling of the planet follow due to the large quantities of sulfur dioxide in the air blocking sunlight.
Now, atmospheric chemists James Anderson, Frank Keutsch and experimental physicist David Keith will take the first step to testing out the possibility of implementing a solution like this. The researchers are set to use a balloon carrying a particle dispenser and expel them into the atmosphere on a small scale.
According to Nature, the initial tests will involve two steerable balloons each spraying about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of calcium carbonate into the air 20 kilometers (12 miles) above the American Southwest. Once the calcium carbonate is deployed, the balloon will fly into the heart of the plume so that the sensors can monitor how the molecules, which do not occur naturally in the atmosphere, behave in this environment.
If everything goes according to plan, the experiment could continue in the first half of 2019 as the team is working organize and coordinate the final stages of development for various instruments on the balloon to be able to study the impact the particles have.
By their calculations, a moderately sized fleet of balloons dispensing 0.5-micrometer calcium carbonate crystals could improve the climate of regions around the world.
“Despite all of the concerns, we can’t find any areas that would be definitely worse off,” Keith told Nature. “If solar geoengineering is as good as what is shown in these models, it would be crazy not to take it seriously.”
That being said, the group understand the gravity of trying to launch a project that could impact the entire planet and the scientists are assembling an independent advisory committee who will review the plans before SCoPEx launches.
“Getting it done right is far more important than getting it done quickly,” Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and member of the advisory committee selection panel, told Nature.